About 3,500 police officers have deserted the Force in the last three years, with the Anti-Stock Theft, Tourism and Field Force units the most affected, PML Daily has learnt.
The deserters’ numbers came to light during a recent head count at all police stations, units and directorates that was done on the orders of Inspector General of Police Martins Okoth-Ochola.
Although the report has not been made public, sources told PML Daily that the desertions, which occurred between 2014 and 2017, are blamed on poor morale stemming from poor accommodation, poor pay and being deployed in hard-to-reach, risky areas such as Kasese and Karamoja where the cost of living is high.
Part of the report seen by this website indicates that over 1,000 Field Force Unit officers have quit the Force, while General Duties has about 800 deserters.
Aviation Police, Crime Intelligence and Counterterrorism also suffered major desertions, with each of the units reportedly having about 200 deserters.
Following the discovery, sources said, Mr Ochola has ordered the Criminal Investigations Directorate headed by Grace Akullo to gather all files of the deserters with a view to hunting them down and prosecuting them.
Deputy police spokesperson Patrick Onyango told journalists on Monday that the deserters will be charged in criminal courts.
“Desertion is a criminal offence and such officers can be prosecuted in criminal courts. But when an officer returns on duty in a two weeks’ time after a desertion notice has been issued he can be charged at disciplinary court,” Mr Onyango said.
Article 59(1) of the Police Act says “a person who deserts the service in the force commits an offence and is liable to conviction by a criminal court to imprisonment for one year.”
According to Police Act, an officer is said to have deserted when he or she is absent from duty without authority for a continuous period of twenty one days (21) or more.